DNA fingerprinting: an effective tool for taxonomic identification of precious corals in jewelry

Sci Rep. 2020 May 19;10(1):8287. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-64582-4.


Precious coral species have been used to produce jewelry and ornaments since antiquity. Due to the high value and demand for corals, some coral beds have been heavily fished over past centuries. Fishing and international trade regulations were put in place to regulate fishing practices in recent decades. To this date, the control of precious coral exploitation and enforcement of trade rules have been somewhat impaired by the fact that different species of worked coral samples can be extremely difficult to distinguish, even for trained experts. Here, we developed methods to use DNA recovered from precious coral samples worked for jewelry to identify their species. We evaluated purity and quantity of DNA extracted using five different techniques. Then, a minimally invasive sampling protocol was tested, which allowed genetic analysis without compromising the value of the worked coral objects.The best performing DNA extraction technique applies decalcification of the skeletal material with EDTA in the presence of laurylsarcosyl and proteinase, and purification of the DNA with a commercial silica membrane. This method yielded pure DNA in all cases using 100 mg coral material and in over half of the cases when using "quasi non-destructive" sampling with sampled material amounts as low as 2.3 mg. Sequence data of the recovered DNA gave an indication that the range of precious coral species present in the trade is broader than previously anticipated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / classification*
  • Anthozoa / genetics
  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Coral Reefs
  • DNA / isolation & purification
  • DNA Fingerprinting / veterinary*
  • Internationality
  • Jewelry / analysis*
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA